There comes a time in every loan army soldier’s service when a decision has to be made — stay in the ranks, or find a new cause. Some reach that stage earlier, some later, but at 23 years of age and having played a grand total of three FA Cup minutes in 2014 for the Chelsea first-team in his career, that time may be nigh for midfielder Lewis Baker.
Leeds United, under new manager Marcelo “El Loco” Bielsa, certainly would prefer that arrangement, though they’re open to a loan.
Leeds have made a move to snap up Chelsea youngster Lewis Baker.— James Nursey (@JamesNursey) June 28, 2018
Midfielder Baker, 23, was loaned out to Middlesbrough last season where he made 14 appearances, scoring twice. See @MirrorFootball live blog https://t.co/TqT8DH20FE #lufc
Baker joined Chelsea as a 9-year-old in 2005, and became one of the very first homegrown prime prospects to emerge from Cobham (to where Chelsea moved the training ground that same year). His connection to the club runs deep, his willingness to buy into the loan madness almost as exemplary as his successes at youth level, his eye for the spectacular, and his remarkable two-footedness. He remains the one and only youth player to win Chelsea’s Goal of the Season award, adding an FA Youth Cup trophy, an U21 Premier League title, two NextGen finals and youth international triumphs with England.
But after a failed loan at Middlesbrough last season, the first of what was meant to be two seasons, he’s in a difficult position. He started well, playing 14 times overall and scoring twice, but was benched in October and saw the pitch for a mere 31 minutes in The Championship the rest of the season.
The highlight of his career so far is two strong seasons with Vitesse Arnhem in the Eredivisie, a league which rewards attacking talent. In his second season at Vitesse, Baker put together a 15-goal, 7-assist campaign and lead the Chelsea affiliate to their first ever major trophy in club history. He seemed primed to make the jump back to England. But Garry Monk lost confidence in him at Boro and Tony Pulis apparently never had any.
Now comes the report from the Daily Mirror that Leeds United are interested in either buying Baker outright or, failing that, taking him on loan. No price has been quoted. It may be that the price isn’t the biggest issue. It may be that after loans to Sheffield Wednesday, MK Dons (where he formed a stellar midfield partnership with a certain Dele Alli), Vitesse and Boro, Baker himself is tired of life on the road and wants to settle down. If that is indeed how he feels, it’s hard to imagine that Chelsea will stand in the way of a man who’s been loyal for 13 years.
Sometimes, it’s time. It may be that this is time for Lewis Baker. On the plus side, Baker under Bielsa probably would be fun, either on loan or on a buyback.